Friday, July 24, 2009

Trust and timing: two ingredients that transform the otherwise humdrum into utter delight. To be specific: There is a measure in the third movement of the Clementi Sonatina in C (the sonatina everyone plays and hates) which sounds truly awful though it appears innocently in the middle of an otherwise acceptable phrase. If it crosses your mind 1) that you really can't stand the way it sounds; 2) that it's the composer's "fault," not yours; 3) that it may be there for humorous purposes, then it may occur to you that you can get your listener to giggle aloud at the very moment when most young players covertly cringe.

This is where timing comes in: Just because every measure has the required number of beats does not mean that the measures follow one another mechanically in robotic succession. Masterful playing is based on the trust that all sounds are not equal. From there it follows that some sounds may be set apart, as if by special punctuation, so that their content is clear.

This is where the issue of a good edition becomes important. In a readily-available facsimile of the first printing of these sonatinas there are dynamics but almost no articulation markings--no phrasings. Therefore the student has to pay attention to the sounds. The commonly used edition is full of articulation errors that obliterate the actual content of these delightful works. No wonder we all hated playing them.